Sandy River, Dodge Park Oregon
TYPE OF WOUNDED PLACE
TYPE OF STORY
Story & Experience
Two days prior to Global Earth Exchange I hiked around the Sandy River near Dodge Park (Oregon) to consider the best way to show appreciation and honor this area. I took pictures of graffiti and trash left around and considered some things that would show my appreciation and love, yet I was struck by a couple of concepts that I truly was able to embrace and explore through this lovely activity. I did this without other humans, and with my little dog Niko.
My initial plans and ideas were not what came to the forefront as I wandered around, they actually faded away, as I enjoyed touching, smelling, singing to and with the area, as I interacted I saw wounds from overuse, machinery, carelessness, and my heart sank in sympathy and compassion for the magnitude of what this place has meant over this last year, and what it has provided and given up so we could all come to the area whenever we wanted to, and so often people have come and received what they needed here, but left sadness, abuse of the land and river, loss, sorrow, damaged dreams; the river held it all so eloquently each time providing what was needed. I was struck by a deep sense of sorrow and loss the river and forest had absorbed in its efforts of providing us this refuge.
I was led to consider this area today, as I would if I was sitting and nurturing a sick or grieving friend, or an exhausted person, who has absorbed so much in pursuit of providing for multitudes of needs and requests placed on her. This river and forest have traveled this year with us, in being here constantly providing the refuge we needed, and I am in awe at the depth of relationship and connectedness that coming here to truly connect and build relationship with the Sandy River, Dodge Park and the surrounding forests, has meant today. Being in relationship with the land is not a new concept for me, however, today it is full of depth, emotion, and a connection at a level that is astounding.
This area has celebrated and grieved along with a diverse and widely varied bunch of visitors, and has held, absorbed, loved us, and has been abused, mistreated, and not acknowledged, yet kept supporting us. The strength and energy of others honoring the earth on the same day, seemed to infuse this newfound awareness in stewardship of relationship with this land and water.
You provide a container for so much, you share in and hold us in our grief, losses, joys, accomplishments, you have been there often unacknowledged, but you never waivered in your attention to so many people, so many moments, and events. You have stood vigilant over the celebrations of milestones, the tears of lost jobs, lost love, fears of future, and you remain on guard of the very graves of lost life, you joined us in the losses, and in the grieving, yet who is here for you? Is abusing your delicate forests with deep cutting machines, graffiti, fires, paint ball guns and debris, unmanaged trash, weighing on you as it would on us? You deserve celebration and appreciation for your steadfastness, and as a partnership, a relationship. I honor that I come to be with you, not stand on you, but alongside you….this concept can grow in the community hopefully.
We have come to you to gaze on your beauty and bask in the sensory healing of your sounds, scents and wildlife. Some of us come to re-calibrate our path, to re-connect ourselves, to consider our hopes and dreams, others come to splash and laugh and celebrate moments, some to fish, some to ponder, some have lost love or lost life at this river’s edge, and you have witnessed and held it all, you have provided the container for us to heal and to express our needs, you provided a safe haven for our dreams to rest, and to navigate the difficulty we experienced this year.
You hold us, each of us, with no judgement, no critical views, no distinction of our race, our gender, our uniqueness or our sameness. You have no worries about our “otherness” but you have heard all of our concerns as we have come to the rivers edge to contemplate and share. You hold us, each in the way we need, some in a fishing hole, some seeking birds in the trees, some playing games in the grass, some meeting friends, and missing friends, regardless of the myriad of events and moments, you hold it all, and you share in it all, you absorb “us” and today I am aware that a wound is occurring here, as you have not been appreciated and thanked for this greatness you provide so freely and so lovingly to each of us.
You carry and hold the joys of the cold water on little toes in the early summer, the refreshment of splashing water, and with the same love and grace, you hold the grieving families as they look at fast moving water that their child was lost in, you hold the community and the deep grief of losses, of broken dreams, of transitions and pivoting over 2021, and while you hold all of us and all of this, you also absorb, you carry, you embrace the pain and the joy,
I am here today to thank you, to bring you an offering
Why this Place?
Sandy River, Dodge Park Oregon
This area of the Sandy River has been a refuge for me and my service dog all through 2020. Many people spend time at this location to escape the stresses of COVID, to enjoy a variety of birds, wildlife, the river, paths, and picnicking.
I spend time in the forest and along the river to recharge and re-calibrate so I can return to my work serving clients as I am a psychotherapist specializing in anxiety and trauma, so it has been a rough year and the river and forest area have saved me repeatedly and given me the strength to keep going.
Act of Beauty
Say more about your actions and activity
Global Earth Exchange Day 2021,
An exchange, a gift, we go to you we look and find answers we find strength and peace in your beauty; we leave you with our sorrows, our dead, our loss, it is all here, our grief, you hold it, “who holds you”, I want to be someone that holds and helps and shares relationship.
I am so thankful for the many treasures the Sandy shares with me, the many expressions of love that I find on her banks, and it was hard to think of a way to acknowledge and appreciate this deep caring I have received here. This deep caring also given to so many from the community and the outlying areas, from all over Oregon.
So today I shared one of my most personal treasures, I brought an offering to the land of tobacco. This tobacco is a treasure because it is what my Papou (Greek Grandfather) used, and the smell and texture of it bring me peace and re-connection with him, so I shared this gift with the river and the land and the trees as my offering and my acknowledgement of the friendship that has been provided to me, and to others here.
I sang a new song over and with the river and land, a song of love, thankfulness, gratitude, and awareness of the sacrifice the river and land have made, and always make, enduring and staying present and consistently loving to us.
The next step was to gather rocks from the river area, and the sand and take them home to contemplate words to write that would provide another way to “give back” to “connect” to “appreciate”. I used safe watercolor on the rocks so that once returned to the river it could not harm the environment. The rocks say things like, “thank you, joy, appreciation, we love you, you are amazing, rest, relax, restore, be healed, recover and things that seemed fitting”. I drew the bird symbol from radical joy on a couple of the rocks. Then the rocks were taken back to the same spot and tossed in with some laughter, some tears, some sadness that this relationship with the people visiting has not been honored much, and some celebration of the beauty and the consistency that lives in this place.
Thank you for holding my pain, my joy, my questions, my dreams, my songs, and my little dog who pads along next to me, thank you for holding us so consistently. Thank you for holding the visitors, for loving them and holding their reasons for coming, and for holding their expressions even after they leave. Thank you for absorbing so much and today thank you for the relationship between you and I , and the one between you and each visitor and each community that you will connect with, thank you for doing that even for those that don’t know yet to acknowledge and appreciate you for this tender and powerful gift. You are always the same, even through the seasons, you are constantly there and providing the container for so many needs. You are appreciated and loved, you are acknowledged, and I look forward personally to building relationship with you and guiding my grandchildren to also develop their own relationship with you, as a way of building this amazing and profound legacy here at the Sandy River.
My hopes for the future in this area, is a connection with the land, and the place, that people will gain a sense of “being with” the area, so instead of kayaking on the river, it would be more “kayaking with the river”, or instead of walking on the river path, it would be “walking with the forest and the river”. A sense of being with and connected instead of “using the environment” it would be joining with the environment and being in relationship. I hope for a deeper sense of reverence and awe in the lovely area we get to live within, and a caretaking on the part of visitors with the land and the river, that somehow we as human travelers can also connect and consider ourselves part of the place and in that I believe a greater desire to take care of, and to love and appreciate will emerge.
As for me and Niko, we will build relationship there and continue to embrace the gifts given to us by this place, and we will offer up our love and gratitude (and our tobacco) to this place in thanks and seek to give back to this place that has supported us through a very difficult year. As I consider all the seasons we have traveled through together in 2021 it is really amazing to hold this joy in me that I have received so much from this place, and I feel the river and land share their joyful energy with me and Niko, even when we tossed back the rocks, or offered the tobacco, I find comfort that this place is here for me, and I can be for it as well, in the rocks, and my small offering, and my song.